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Joe Bruno on the Mob – My Website Gets Bombarded With “Mob Wives” Hits

Posted in Cosa Nostra, criminals, crooks, FBI, FBI, gangsters, mafia, mobs, Mobsters, New York City, organized crime, police, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 26, 2012 by Joe Bruno's Blogs


March 26, 2012

Joe Bruno on the Mob – My Website Gets Bombarded With “Mob Wives” Hits

            I had no idea what’s going on, but on Monday, March 26, my website Joe Bruno on the Mob  hit TILT!

Mobsters, Gangs, Crooks and Other Creeps-Volume 1 - New York City

Mobsters, Gangs, Crooks and Other Creeps-Volume 1 – New York City

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            The website got an amazing 14,000 hits; and this is before 1 p.m. in the afternoon. The most I ever got in one day before was 1100 hits, and that was a great day!

            The good thing about having a blog on is that they give you detailed stats; telling you the search terms used to get to my blog, and also the search engines used. They also tell you exactly what articles (I have 320 total articles on my blog) are getting the hits. And the overwhelming majority of the hits this morning were on the 16 articles I wrote on the VH1 TV show “Mob Wives.”

            The runaway winner on hits was an article I wrote entitled “Renee Graziano and Rat Ex- Husband Hector Pagan Back Together.” This article alone got an incredible 3920 hits, and again, this is before 1 p.m. – a 13-hour period.

            I should have had a clue this was happening when I opened my AOL emails that morning. Usually I got a few comments from readers per week, which I dutifully answer. This morning I got 10 emails from readers; all on the topic “Mob Wives.”

            Here are some of the remarks:

I’d rather pull my teeth out one by one then to watch Renee “AKA Lunatic” cry, scream aggghh…and whats up with big Ang…This is some crazy shit!!

Answer: My teeth are all gone already watching this show.

Sorry, read up and now know WPP. Watch the show every week and was shocked to read about it. Looks like next week Renee finds out on the show. Their poor son. I already felt bad for the kid and now this. I have a question though, when these woman don’t work how can they afford these homes when their husbands are locked up most of the time.

Answer: They are doing the show because they NEED THE MONEY!

Wow im so sorry renee and a.j. Jr. is the lowest dirt bag scum you are a strong woman my deepest empathy

Answer: Junior Pagan is lower than the lowest dirt scumbag.

Ok so I must first admit I watch the show every weekend, as crazy as it is it makes me feel like my issues are not that bad lol. Apparently I’ve ben living under a rock bc I didn’t know about Jr being a snitch. Im utterly disgusted that someone could be so conniving, wow!

Answer: The producers are just as conniving as Junior for keeping us in the dark about him being a rat.

I really hate to admit this but I actually like “Mob Wives” Im from a very small town in North Carolina and I never really thought this lifestyle was real. I guess I just assumes it was just from the movies. I just watched the episode where JR “self surrenders” and was I had to know what happened so I googled “Hector Pagan”. I came across the things you have written and I truely enjoy it! After reading all you have wrote I am questioning what is it like to be in “the lifestyle”? Is this show totally different than the actual mob life. I have so many questions. I feel like a small town southern girl who knows nothing as if Ive been sheltered from whats really out there. I truely enjoy reading your blog and hope to read more.

Answer: The women in this show have as much in common with real mob wives as I have with Brad Pitt.

You get the idea.

I’m as startled as anyone as to the extent of the national attention given to a TV show that is so bad, it makes my nose hairs hurt.

Why is the show so popular?

It’s not realistic. The acting is horrible. There is no story line to speak of, except this wife hates that wife, and the other wife is friends with wife #1, so she can’t be friends with wife #2.

Ad infinitum…… UGH……

Then there’s the Junior Pagan thing. It’s been common knowledge for months that Pagan is an informant for the FBI. Yet, if you watch the show, and don’t read or watch the news, you’d never know this. Not once has anyone on the show attempted to set the record straight. And this could be done easily with a disclaimer as the show starts, stating something like, “Since we recorded this show, Junior Pagan has become an FBI informant. Sorry for any confusion the following show might cause.”

Was that so hard?

Stay tuned for further developments.

PS — The final stats for the day were: 16,566 total hits on Joe Bruno on the Mob. 4,564 hits on the article “Renee Graziano and Rat Ex- Husband Hector Pagan Back Together.”

Joe Bruno on the Mob – The Boys from Brownsville

Posted in criminals, crooks, Gangs, gangsters, labor unions, mafia, mobs, Mobsters, murder, New York City, New York City murder, organized crime, police, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 15, 2012 by Joe Bruno's Blogs


They started out as punk kids looking to make a small score anyway they could. But the Boys from Brownsville advanced to being the right arm of Murder Incorporated, the most blood-thirsty organization in the history of America.

Murder and Mayhem in the Big Apple - From the Black Hand to Murder Incorporated

Murder and Mayhem in the Big Apple – From the Black Hand to Murder Incorporated

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In the early 1920’s, the Shapiro brothers controlled the illegal activities in the Brownville section of Brooklyn with an iron fist. Meyer was the second oldest and he ran the show. Nothing was beneath Meyer, and he once claimed he owned fifteen brothels in Brownville, with no partners, except his brothers, to share in the proceeds.

“I’m the boss of Brownsville,” Meyer said to anyone who doubted his clout

Irving was the oldest Shapiro brother; not as bright or as tough as Meyer, but still considered the second-in-charge. Willie was the youngest of the three, not too bright and not too tough; not a good combination in the means streets of Brownsville. Willie was basically considered a joke, and lucky to have been born into the Shapiro family.

Besides running broads, the Shapiros cornered the market in Brownsville on illegal booze, and illegal slot machines. To continue to operate untouched, Meyer was smart enough to pay tribute to the bigger mob bosses from the other parts of Brooklyn (Meyer didn’t consider them partners; just the cost of doing business).

“We got everything straightened out our way,” Meyer told his brothers. “As long as we stay in our own backyard, we’ve got nothing to worry about.”

Then a young street punk named Abe “Kid Twist” Reles began having ideas.

Reles’ father, Abraham, was an Austrian Jew; a humble man who had come to America to seek a better life. Upon his arrival in the “Mountain of Gold,” Abraham Reles supported his family by doing piece work in Manhattan’s Garment Center. Soon, he had saved enough money to start his own business: selling knishes on the streets of Brooklyn with his mobile stand, which Abraham Reles pushed from street corner to street corner, looking for the busiest spot.

Abe Reles was a stocky five-foot-two-inch menace, with the long and powerful hands of a six-footer, and he abhorred his father’s honorable way of life. Reles quit school after the eighth grade, and went to work as a go-fer for the Shapiros. Reles was used for the most menial of jobs; running errands and maybe sometimes keeping an eye on one of the many Shapiro-brothers-owned slot machines. One day, Reles took a bullet to his back while minding a Shapiro slot machine (a mere flesh wound). But this got Reles to thinking.

He told his childhood pal Martin “Buggsy” Goldstein, “Why do we have to take the left-overs?” Reles said. “We should cut a piece. The hell with those guys.”

            (It was about this time that Reles took  the nickname “Kid Twist,” in honor of a previous New York City Jewish mobster named Max “Kid Twist” Zwerbach, who was killed in front of a Coney Island dance hall in 1908.)

Goldstein was a follower and Reles was his pied piper. Whereas Reles was a tough runt who could kill with the best of them, the hulking Goldstein was the definition of street muscle. Reles snapped his fingers, and Goldstein jumped to attention and did what Reles told him to do. Reles decided that he and Goldstein should go into business for themselves. Nothing big; maybe a few slot machines, and a single house of prostitution for starters.

However, Reles knew the Shapiros had too many men on the streets, and that he needed to make alliances with other street toughs in order to bring his plans to fruition. Reles told Buggsy they should pay a little visit to Happy and the Dasher.

Harry “Happy” Maione and Frank “Dasher” Abbandando were two Italian good-for-nothings who headed the “Ocean Hill Hooligans,” a ruthless street gang who ran the bookmaking and loan-shaking operations in Ocean Hill, Brooklyn, which was adjacent to Brownsville. Maione, the elder of the two, was the boss; Abbandando — his second-in-command.

“Dasher” got his nickname because he was been such a dashing baseball player for the Elmira Reformatory, where he had spent most of his youth. In fact, people said the hulking Abbandando could have been a hell-of-a professional baseball player if that had been his desire. The movie-star handsome Dasher also had a slight problem concerning woman; he liked to rape them. Years later, as he awaited his murder trial, Dasher admitted he had participated in dozens of rapes, but he denied one rape in particular.

“That one didn’t count,” Dasher said. “I married her later.”

Dasher’s usual mode of murder was the ice pick because, “It didn’t make too much noise.” But Dasher did admit you had to hold your hand over the victim’s mouth while inserting the icepick, to muffle any screams that might be imminent.

Happy Maione, on the other hand, was short and mean, with beady eyes that seemed to bore a hole into the forehead of the person he was berating. In fact, Happy was called “Happy” because a smile rarely crossed his protruding lips. Once, in order to kill someone who Murder Incorporated said needed to be killed, the slender Maione dressed up like a sexy woman and knocked on the apartment door of his mark (after removing the light bulb in the hallway, of course). The sucker eyed what he thought was an attractive dame in the peephole of his door (for once Maione was smiling; his fake-eye-lashed eyes were fluttering too). As a result, the mark opened the door with the glee of a schoolboy panting for his first date. As soon as the door flung open, Maione and his accomplice filled the victim with several bullet holes, rendering him quite dead.

Abe Reles figured mean thugs like Happy and the Dasher would be swell partners in a takeover of the Brownsville rackets. He approached the Dasher first.

 “How about we get together for a little booking?” Reles told the Dasher. “We could handle some betting; you here, and me and Buggsy in Brownsville.”

The Dasher was not too sure this was the right thing to do.

“I don’t know. Me and Happy are okay here,” the Dasher said. “And what about those Shapiros? They won’t like it.”

“Let me worry about those bums,” Reles said. “I’m for Kid Reles from here on in.”

Reles set up a meeting between himself and Buggsy, and Happy and the Dasher. Reles got right to the point.

“Those bums can be taken,” Reles told Happy.

Happy was willing to listen, but was not too eager to join forces.

“What’s on your mind?” Happy said.

“Listen, if we put a mob together we could take everything over,” Reles said.

Happy was still unconvinced. He said, “Look, I’m the boss of Ocean Hill, and I get left alone. Why should I stick my neck out?”

“You throw in with us, and we all move in,” Reles said.

“Where do I fit in if I do?” Happy said.

“Simple,” Reles said. “We take care of the Shapiros; then we take over. Everything goes into the pot. Brownsville, East New York, Ocean Hill – everything. Then we cut down the middle.”

Happy, who secretly hated Reles (and he knew deep inside Reles hated Happy too), told Reles he’d think about it. Happy then approached his mentor Louis Capone about Reles’ proposition. Capone (no relation to Al Capone) was ostensibly a Brooklyn restaurateur, but was in fact a big-time gangster with close ties to Mafioso like Joe “Adonis” Doto, and Albert “The Lord High Executioner” Anastasia. Capone was knee-deep in loan-sharking and was also a force in several labor union rackets too.

New York City District Attorney William O’Dwyer told the New York Times that, “Capone had his fingers dipped in every dirty crime committed by the murder syndicate (Murder Incorporated, which we’ll get to later in this book). He was the contact between lesser lights like Reles, Straus, Maione and Goldstein, and bosses like Anastasia and Buchalter (Louie Lepke). But he was not a real head of the mob.”

Happy figured if Capone gave his blessing for a marriage between Happy and Reles, it must be the right thing to do. So Happy laid out Reles’ plan to Capone.

Without hesitation, Capone told Happy. “It sounds real good, Hap.”

Capone even convinced Happy to take in another Capone protégé, Vito Gurino, a five foot-six-inch, 265-pound ox, who could kill as easy as eating a meatball sandwich. This gave the Reles-Maione crew one more valuable assassin in their war against the Shapiros.

So the alliance was made, and Abe Reles’ and Happy Maione’s gangs merged into one formidable group of killers. The Shapiros had a few proficient gunslingers of their own, but with the addition of his new torpedoes, the tide seemed to be turning in Reles’ favor.

Word spread quickly around Brownsville about Reles and Maione’s ambitions, and Meyer Shapiro was not too happy.

“Brownsville belongs to us,” Meyer told his brothers. “Nobody moves in here.”

Reles first order of business was to approach a young punk named Joey Silvers (Silverstein), who was one of the dupes the Shapiros used for their small stuff. Reles paid Silvers, and he paid him well, to tip off Reles whenever they was an opportunity to ambush the Shapiros, and kill all three brothers in one place at one time. Soon, Silvers contacted Reles and told him that all three Shapiros were holed up in a gambling house, and would be leaving shortly, making them naked to a sneak attack.

Not having time to assemble the rest of the crew, Reles and Buggsy brought along a new confederate named George DeFeo. When they arrived at the gambling house, sure enough, the Shapiros’ cars was parked right out front. Reles’ plan was to ice pick the tires, and then nail the Shapiros as they approached their car. But before Reles could even pull out the icepick, the Shapiros opened fire from the safety of the house. Buggsy took a bullet in his nose, and Reles absorbed another one in his stomach. DeFeo was shot dead instantly.

Reles and Buggsy somehow made it to safety, and with the help of a mobbed-up doctor, they slowly licked their wounds and began figuring out how to take out Silvers for his betrayal, along with the Shapiros.

However, Reles had underestimated the depravity of Meyer Shapiro.

One cool autumn night, Meyer Shapiro jumped into his jalopy and scanned the streets of Brownsville, looking to hurt Reles where it hurt most: below the belt. He spotted the pretty young girl while she was window shopping at a local clothing store. The girl was the 18-year-old girlfriend of Abe “Kid Twist” Reles.

Shapiro swerved his car to the curb, and before the girl knew what was happening, she was inside Shapiro’s car, kicking and screaming, but no match for a hardened thug like Shapiro.

Shapiro drove with one hand, and with his free hand he slapped and punched the girl into submission. Then he sped to a secluded area on the outskirts of Brownville and raped Abe Reles’ girlfriend. And if that wasn’t enough, as an added message, Shapiro pummeled the young girl’s face with both fists as if she were a man. When the girl’s face was a grotesque mask of blood, bumps, and bruises, Shapiro opened the passenger door and kicked her out onto the darkened street. She lay there for a while, then was able to drag herself to her feet and make it back to Brownsville. She told Reles what had happened, but her face told everything.

Reles was incensed. Women were off limits.

Reles slowly plotted his revenge.

Reles’ first order of business was to recruit another strong-arm for his crew. He picked a dilly in Harry “Pittsburgh Phil” Strauss, destined to be the most deranged killer in the history of Brownsville, if not in the entire United States of America. Strauss, who had never been to Pittsburgh (he just liked the name), was called “Pep” by his friends. It was later said Strauss liked committing murder so much (it was reported he killed anywhere from one hundred to five hundred people), he often volunteered for murder contracts because, as District Attorney William O’Dwyer once said, “Just for the lust to kill.”

Strauss was a connoisseur in the art of killing. He used whatever weapon available, but his favorites were the ice pick (like his compatriot Dasher), and a length of rope, which Strauss used to truss up his victims from ankles to throat, and let them linger there as he watched them strangle themselves to death.

Reles later said, “When we got Pep it was like we put on a whole new troupe.”

Reles also recruited a nasty Irishman killer named “Blue Jaw” Magoon, who got his moniker from the fact that he had a five o’clock shadow all day long.

Healed from his wounds, Reles called for a meeting with Happy and both crews.

 “Now what happens?” Happy said.

“Well, the Shapiros have to be hit,” Reles said. “We can’t just muscle them out; they got to go. And remember, the first one is Meyer. I got something to square him for.”

The Shapiros knew they were hunted men, but they were lucky that Reles and his crew couldn’t hit the side of a barn with a shotgun at ten paces. For the next year, Reles and his boys stalked the streets of Brownville looking for the Shapiros, but especially Meyer Shapiro. They spotted Meyer eighteen times, and eighteen times their bullets missed their mark. On the nineteenth try, Reles finally wounded Shapiro and two innocent bystanders, but the wound was superficial and Meyer Shapiro escaped, still very much alive.

In early July of 1931, Irving Shapiro convinced Meyer that maybe they should relax and take a ride to Monticello in the Catskill Mountains for the day to visit old pal Jack Siegal, who was on trial for running illegal slot machines.

“You look a little jumpy, Meyer” Irv said. “We can run up and see if we can do anything for Jack. The ride will do you good.”

Since he was tired of being a clay pigeon for Reles’ inept shooting gallery, Meyer agreed to take the day off and breathe in some of that clean country air.

By this time, Abe Reles had his long tentacles throughout Brownville, and his ears firmly to the ground. Minutes after Irv and Meyer Shapiro left town, Reles knew about their country excursion. He quickly assembled his crew and presented his plan.

“There’s a card game at the Democratic Club on Sheffield Avenue tonight,” Reles said. “Those rats are sure to be back for it. They figure to leave Monticello around four-five o’clock. That would get them down here about eight. They’ll eat and be at the club say, ten-eleven o’clock. We’ll be there when they come out.”

Reles was almost exact in his calculations. At about 1 a.m., with Reles and his crew loaded for bear outside, Irv and Meyer Shapiro exited the Democratic Club and headed for their cars. The only problem was, about a dozen other card players exited at the same time, forming a shield around the Shapiro brothers. Before Reles and his crew could get off a shot, the Shapiro brother were safely in their car, and gone.

Reles was steaming mad, but he would not be deterred.

“Quick, over to their house,” Reles told his crew. “They’ll head there.”

Reles and his men sped over to 691 Blake Avenue; the apartment building where the Shapiros lived. The Shapiros’ car was nowhere in sight.

“Good, we beat them here,” Reles said. “Now we go in the hall and wait. Remember, Meyer goes first.”

They snuck into the hallway of the apartment building, removed the over-head light bulb, and waited in the dark. Luckily, no other residents entered the apartment building, and luckily for Meyer Shapiro, he had decided he needed a good rubdown at a nearby bath house.

“I don’t think I’ll go home,” Meyer told Irv in the car. “I’m still jumpy. Drop me off at the Cleveland Baths. I’ll stay there overnight. Maybe it will loosen me up.”

Irv Shapiro did as his brother requested, and after he parked his car near the entrance to his apartment building, Irv entered the darkened vestibule. Reles hesitated, realizing it was Irv and not Meyer Shapiro, whom he wanted badly. But the rest of his crew commenced firing. When the smoke cleared, Irving Shapiro, hit eighteen times, and was splattered dead on the tiled floor.

Scratch Shapiro brother number one.

Nine days later, on July 19, 1931, Meyer Shapiro was strolling down Church Avenue and East 58th Street in the East New York section of Brooklyn, when a dark sedan pulled up next to him and three gunman started firing. Shapiro jumped into his car and tried to escape, with the sedan chasing after him.

Policeman Harold Schreck was driving nearby when he heard gunfire. He sped to where the shots had come from, and he spotted the dark sedan careening straight toward him. Not seeing Shapiro speeding away for his life, Policeman Schreck ordered the driver of the sedan to pull over, but the sedan whizzed past him. Policeman Schreck made a U-turn and gave case, one hand driving, and the other hand firing his gun at the speeding sedan. Schreck soon was joined by another police car occupied by policemen Joe Fleming and Harry Phelps. The two police cars chased the sedan onto the street car tracks. The sedan skidded all over the road, almost tipping over several times, but it always regained its balance. At one point, Policeman Schreck spotted a pistol being flung from the car into an empty lot on Sutter Avenue.

The chase ended at Livonia and Howard Avenues, where the three occupants sprung from the car and tried to flee on foot. The cops jumped out of their two cars and caught all three men before they could get very far. The three men turned out to be Abe Reles, Harry Strauss, and Dasher Abbandando, who had obviously lost his skill at “dashing.” The cops also found a sawed-off shotgun near the sedan (which had been stolen six days earlier at the corner of Pitkin and Stone). It was obvious the hot shotgun had recently been discharged.

The three thugs were arrested, but they refused to talk. The police had information that Reles and his boys were “out to get” Meyer Shapiro, but Shapiro, only slightly wounded, went into hiding. With no dead body, and no one to issue a complaint, Brooklyn District Attorney Geoghan was forced to let Reles and his men go.

That made it twenty times that Shapiro had survived a Reles-led attack.

As a consolation prize, a few days later, Reles and Happy Maione cornered Joey Silvers on a Brownville Street corner, and up close, they blew his head almost completely off his shoulders. But, Meyer Shapiro was still on the loose, with “Deadeye” Reles and his boys in hot pursuit.

Meyer Shapiro decided Brooklyn was too hot for him, so he holed up in Manhattan where he thought he was safe. And he was – for a while.

While in Manhattan, Shapiro, his gang shrinking quickly, figured maybe he could establish himself in Manhattan; a little loansharking, a few slot machines, and maybe even  little speakeasy which he could call his own. While attempting to set up shop in Manhattan, Shapiro exposed himself to the underworld element; not a smart thing to do for a man with a bull’s eye on his forehead.

 On September, 17, Shapiro stopped in a Manhattan speakeasy for a drink. It’s not clear who spotted him, but soon Kid Twist, Happy, and Buggsy (sounds like three of the seven dwarfs) abducted Shapiro and took him to a Lower East Side cellar located at 7 Manhattan Avenue. The next morning a newsboy found Shapiro’s body in that cellar. He had been shot once behind the left ear at extremely close range, which was verified by deep powder burns where the bullet had entered Shapiro’s skull.

Scratch Shapiro brother number two.

As was his plan, Reles fired the fatal shot himself, and even Reles couldn’t miss with his gun pressed up against Shapiro’s head.

Now all that was left of the Shapiro gang was Willie Shapiro, who had been making noise that he was out to get Reles and his crew, despite the fact that Willie had all but disappeared from the streets of Brooklyn.

Willie Shapiro was considered the weakest of the Shapiro brothers and not a top priority on the Boys from Brownsville’s list of things to do. Reles and Maione were too busy strengthening their organization to put much effort in locating Willie, who by this time had embarked on a career as a prize fighter, and not a very good one at that.

By 1934, Willie Shapiro knew he was dead in the water if he insisted on going after the men who had killed his two brothers. He told his sister Rose, “What’s the use? I can’t make it alone. I’m out of the rackets. I’m going to forget about those bums.”

It turned out that Willie had waited too long to announce his retirement from a life of crime. Although Reles and his boys were not actively seeking Willie, he was still unfinished business, and Reles hated unfinished business

On July, 18, 1934, the day after Willie had spoken to his sister Rose, Vito Gurino met Reles and Strauss on a Brownsville street corner. He told them, “I just spotted Willie going into a place near Herkimer. You know, we’ve got nothing to do now (meaning killing). Why don’t we take him tonight and be done with it?”

Reles and Strauss agreed with Gurino’s assessment, and a few hours later, they abducted Willie from a Brownsville bar and brought him to the basement of a bar and grill on Rockaway Avenue that Gurino owned with Happy Maione and Happy’s brother-in-law Joe Daddonna. In the basement working over Willie were the hulking Gurino, Happy, Strauss, and the Dasher. The beating was most brutal, and when Willie was finally rendered unconscious, Happy put a stop to the festivities; at least for a while.

“This bum is done for,” Happy said.

That was the cue for Strauss to perform his neat rope trick. “Pittsburgh Phil” trussed up Willie like a Thanksgiving turkey; then watched Willie’s dance of death. When Willie stopped struggling and fell limp, signaling he had choked himself to death, the killers stuffed Willie into a laundry bag, to make it easier to transport his body. They flung the laundry bag into the trunk of their car and drove to the sand dunes, in a secluded area in Canarsie Flats. They dumped the laundry bag with Willie onto the sand, and commenced digging.

Shortly after, a Canarsie resident, who was having trouble sleeping, decided to go for a stroll near the sand dunes. Suddenly, he was startled when he thought he detected movement on top of one of the sand dunes. He walked closer and he spotted four men digging in the sand. Suddenly, one of the men lifted his head and spotted the witness. It was Happy and he yelled, “Somebody made us.”

The four men sprinted to a waiting car and sped back to Brownsville, presumably to have a celebratory meal in the bar and grill on Rockaway Avenue.

The witness ran over to where the men had been digging and he spotted the laundry bag in the half-dug hole. He bent down, pulled the top of the bag open, and there was Willie, all trussed up, and not looking to good. The man ran to the local police station, and when the police arrived soon after, Willie Shapiro was indeed dead.

Scratch Shapiro brother number three.

Willie’s body was brought to the Medical Examiner, who discovered sand in Willie’s lungs, meaning Willie had been buried alive.

With Louis Capone as the intermediary to keep peace between Reles and Happy, the Boys from Brownsville thrived.  When Albert Anastasia needed someone murdered, he relayed this information to Capone, who gave the contract to Reles and Maione, who then used their stable of killers, including themselves, to do the dirty deeds.

However, the Boys from Brownsville’s main source of income was shylocking (loaning money out at usurious rates), bookmaking (taking illegals bets on sporting events), and floating craps (dice) games. The “floating” craps games took place on street corners, and in vacant lots. The more expensive games were run in car garages, or in any building that was vacant for the night.

The shylocking and bookmaking businesses were run from the backroom of a Brownsville candy store called “Midnight Rose’s.” The store was owned by a cranky old lady named Rose, who was the mother of one of the minor members of the crew, known only as the Dapper. Rose was hassled several times by the law over the type of people who frequented her establishment.

“Why do you let hoodlums hang out in your store?” she was asked by detectives.

“Why don’t the police keep them out?” she said. “Can I help it who comes into my store?”

One she was asked by the police if she knew anyone named “Pittsburgh Phil.”

“Pittsburgh, Chicago, San Francisco… what do I know about them?” she said. “I was never out of Brooklyn in my life. All I know is I got ‘syracuse’ veins. I’m a sick woman.”

It was stated in a 1942 corruption report to New York Governor Herbert Lehman by Special Assistant Attorney John Harlan, that in 1938 alone, more than $400,000 dollars in loans were handled by Midnight Rose herself.

There was also a Brownsville Boys’ “stolen-car department,” run by the younger members, who were basically go-fers for Reles, Happy Maione, Pittsburgh Phil, and the rest of the higher-ups. Teenagers like Dukey Maffetore and Pretty Levine stole cars on a regular basis, as did “Blue Jaw” Magoon, and stolen-car specialist Sholem Bernstein. Some cars were broken down and sold as parts, but most were used as transportation in murder contracts, which we will discuss later in this book under “Murder Incorporated,” a syndicate of killers which tapped the Brownsville Boys as their most efficient torpedoes.

It was around the time of the Willie Shapiro murder that the Brownsville Boys moved up in stature in the National Crime Syndicate, which included Italians Lucky Luciano, Frank Costello, and Joe “Adonis” Doto, and Jewish gangsters Meyer Lansky, Bugsy Siegel, Louis Lepke Buchalter, and Buchalter’s partner Jacob “Gurah” Shapiro. Through intermediary Louis Capone, the Brownsville Boys were given numerous murder contracts, which culminated in the Brownsville Boys being given more territories in Brooklyn in which to run their rackets.

There is no doubt that the Brownsville Boys elimination of the Shapiro brothers spurred their transition from strictly small-timers into the major leagues of organized crime.















Joe Bruno on the Mob – Bulger’s Moll Catherine Greig Agrees to Plead Guilty

Posted in criminals, crooks, Drug dealers, FBI, FBI, gangsters, mafia, mobs, Mobsters, murder, organized crime, police, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 13, 2012 by Joe Bruno's Blogs

No matter which way I twist and turn, I can’t understand what the Federal prosecutors were thinking.

Mobsters, Gangs, Crooks and Other Creeps-Volume 2 - New York City

Mobsters, Gangs, Crooks and Other Creeps-Volume 2 – New York City

Buy from Amazon

            In a move straight out of the Twilight Zone, Federal prosecutors have decided to let Whitey Bulger’s gal-pal Catherine Grieg plead guilty to three charges, and have also agreed not to force her to testify against Bulger as part of the agreement.

In a plea agreement filed in federal court, Greig said she would plead guilty to three charges: conspiracy to harbor a fugitive, conspiracy to commit identity fraud, and identity fraud, without an agreed-upon recommendation for sentencing by the government and her attorney. With a little luck, and the help of the Feds, Grieg can serve as little as 32 months in prison.

Greig’s attorney, Kevin Reddington argued in court that her only crime was falling in love with Bulger and that she had no knowledge of any of his crimes.

And if you believe that, there’s a bridge in Brooklyn I’d like to sell you. Everybody in Boston knew about Bulger’s crimes; even the fish floundering in Boston Harbor. Yet they expect us to believe Grieg was on the run for 16 years with someone she thought to be a traveling salesman, or something similar.

            Bulger and Grieg were on the run for almost 16 years when they were caught last June living in a Santa Monica, California condominium. When they were captured, Bulger, who will go on trial for participating in 19 murders, had a hidden cache of $800,000 in the condominium walls, as well as an arsenal of guns. Tell me Greig didn’t know about that either.

And what about other cash Bulger has reportedly stashed around the world? What does Greig know about that? Does she know the locations? Amounts? Does anyone really believe the $800,000 found in Santa Monica was all the money Bulger had in the world? The Feds could have pressed Grieg on this, and maybe the families of the murder victims could have gotten a few bucks for their miseries; anything is better than nothing.

            Even though the families of four of Bulger’s murder victims were at the meeting when the prosecutors agreed to the deal, they were not happy. Steve Davis’ sister, Debra, was allegedly strangled by Bulger in 1981. And Frank Donahue’s father, Michael, was allegedly shot and killed by Bulger in 1982 on the South Boston waterfront. Both men said that the prosecutors did not tell them what sentence they would recommend for Greig.

“She helped that guy on the run,” Donahue said, referring to Bulger. “We could have had these answers 16 years ago. She’s a criminal, she’s not a victim. She’s a criminal.”

Davis said he understood that Greig was not the murderer but he was disappointed by “the fact that the government has not put a tight enough grip on everything.”

“What they want out of this is they want the conviction,” he said.

This was a slam dunk for the Feds, and they let a big fish off the hook for a silly conviction, which can amount to as little as 32 months behind bars for Greig?

This just doesn’t make sense to me. But there are a lot of other things the Federal government has done lately that doesn’t make sense to me either.

You can see the articles below at:


James ‘Whitey’ Bulger girlfriend, Catherine Greig, agrees to plead guilty to three charges

By Milton J. Valencia and Shelley Murphy, Globe Staff

Catherine Greig, girlfriend of alleged murderous gangster James “Whitey” Bulger, has agreed to plead guilty to charges that she helped him to escape capture while he was on the lam for 16 years.

Catherine Greig (US Marshals Service/AP)

In a plea agreement filed in federal court today, Greig said she would plead to three charges — conspiracy to harbor a fugitive, conspiracy to commit identity fraud, and identity fraud — without an agreed-upon recommendation for sentencing by the government and her attorney. Greig is slated to go before a federal judge Wednesday.

In a statement of facts signed by Greig, also filed in court, she said, “I engaged in conduct that was intended to help Bulger avoid detection from law enforcement and to provide him with support and assistance during his flight from law enforcement.”

She admitted that she and Bulger had obtained false identification documents including driver’s licenses and Social Security cards of real people.

She admitted that she used one fake identity to pick up medicine and obtain medical services between 2002 and 2011, and used other aliases while dealing with a dentist who treated Bulger while they lived in Santa Monica, Calif.

Greig said she never used the fake identities “to defraud anyone else of money, good or other property, although I do readily agree that I was in possession of the false identities and that I used the false identities to fill out forms to obtain medical services.”

The documents were filed after relatives of people who were allegedly murdered by Bulger met with prosecutors.

Emerging from the hour-long meeting at US District Court in Boston, Tom Donahue and Steve Davis said prosecutors told them that each charge Greig faces carries a maximum five-year sentence, but that, under federal sentencing guidelines, she could serve as little as 32 months in prison. They also said prosecutors had told them that Greig, 60, would not be forced to testify against Bulger and that the government was not seeking forfeiture of her house.

Donahue and Davis said prosecutors didn’t disclose what sentence they would recommend. Prosecutors declined to comment in a statement issued this afternoon.

Donahue said he was disappointed by the news and felt the government should have been tougher on her.

“She helped that guy on the run,” he said. “We could have had these answers 16 years ago. She’s a criminal, she’s not a victim. She’s a criminal,” he said.

Davis said he understood that Greig was not the murderer — Bulger allegedly murdered 19 people — but Davis was disappointed by “the fact that the government has not put a tight enough grip on everything.”

“What they want out of this is they want the conviction,” he said.

Davis’s sister, Debra, was allegedly strangled by Bulger in 1981. Donahue’s father, Michael, was allegedly shot and killed by Bulger in 1982 on the South Boston waterfront.

Relatives of at least four of Bulger’s alleged victims attended the meeting.

Bulger, who fled just before his January 1995 federal racketeering indictment after being warned by his former FBI handler that he was about to be arrested, was a fixture on the FBI’s 10 Most Wanted list. He was finally captured on June 22 in Santa Monica, with Greig, a former dental hygienist who lived in South Boston and Quincy.

The FBI found more than $800,000 cash and 30 weapons hidden inside the walls of the rent-controlled apartment where the couple had lived as Charles and Carol Gasko for at least 13 years, according to the FBI. They also found numerous false identities allegedly used by the couple.

Since they were returned to the Boston area last year, Greig has remained jailed without bail at a Rhode Island facility, and Bulger is being held at the Plymouth County Correctional Facility.

Greig’s attorney, Kevin Reddington, has argued in court that her only crime was falling in love with Bulger and that she had no knowledge of any of his crimes. He also said she would not cooperate against Bulger.

Whitey Bulger’s girlfriend to plead guilty and avoid testimony: report


Last Updated: 5:26 PM, March 12, 2012

Posted: 5:25 PM, March 12, 2012

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BOSTON — The girlfriend of notorious gangster James “Whitey” Bulger plans to plead guilty this week and will not be forced to testify when she goes on trial for conspiracy to harbor a fugitive and two other charges, The Boston Globe reported.

Catherine Greig, 60, is planning to enter a guilty plea in federal court in Boston on Wednesday, relatives of victims allegedly murdered by Bulger told the paper after meeting with prosecutors.

They said prosecutors also told them that Greig could serve 32 months in prison and would not be forced to testify.


Catherine Greig, the longtime girlfriend of Whitey Bulger.

Greig and Bulger, 82, were arrested in Santa Monica, Calif., last June after nearly 17 years on the run.

Bulger, 82, is accused of 19 murders in Boston dating back to the 1970s. He and Greig went into hiding in 1994 after he discovered he was to be arrested.

Some of the victims’ family members were disappointed by the news.

“She helped that guy on the run,” Tom Donahue told the paper. His father, Michael Donahue, was killed in 1982 when he gave a ride to a man Bulger allegedly intended to murder.

“We could have had these answers 16 years ago. She’s a criminal, she’s not a victim. She’s a criminal.”

Joe Bruno on the Mob – Mob Rat Commits Suicide

Posted in Cosa Nostra, criminals, crooks, Drug dealers, Drugs, FBI, FBI, gangsters, mafia, mobs, Mobsters, murder, organized crime, pirates, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 12, 2012 by Joe Bruno's Blogs


This may not be as shocking as mob stoolie Abe “Kid Twist” flying out of a Coney Island hotel window in 1941. But the suicide of Gambino crime family Nicholas “Nicky Skins” Stefanelli has left the FBI with enough eggs on their faces for an Olympian-sized omelet.

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            Stefanelli, who has been secretly wearing a wire for the last two years, was considered a key witness is several upcoming mob trials, both in New England and in Philadelphia. Rather than testify against Philadelphia-area mob boss Joseph “Uncle Joe” Ligambi and former New England boss Luigi “Baby Shacks” Manocchio, Stefanelli apparently killed himself with a drug overdose on Feb. 26 at the Renaissance Meadowlands Hotel in Rutherford, NJ. But not before he shot to death  the man whom Stefanelli felt was responsible for him becoming FBI informant. (As if Stefanelli didn’t have a free will of his own.)

The man Stefanelli killed was Joseph Rossi Sr., a Bloomfield, NJ, businessman who in 2010 was arrested on tax evasion and the possession of illegal video games. Rossi tried to buy his way out of jail by telling the Feds that Stefanelli and his son Nicholas Jr. were drug dealers. Stefanelli and his son were then arrested by the Feds, and the elder Stefanelli agreed to wear a wire on top-echelon mobsters, ostensibly to save his son from going to jail.

            As a result of Rossi’s untimely demise, the FBI also winds up looking a tad incompetent for allowing a federal witness to go out and kill someone, when Stefanelli should have been under federal watch, and obviously was not.

A source close to the FBI gave this lame statement: “You can’t keep somebody locked down 24/7. The FBI has thousands of sources all over.”

And another FBI source said: “This is sensitive. It’s ugly. It’s bad.”

No kidding.

To show how bad the FBI missed the boat on this one, a source close to Stefanelli told the New York Post that Stefanelli had even paid for his own funeral a few days before he offed himself. (I’m surprised Stefanelli didn’t ask the FBI for advice in picking out his coffin.)

If Stefanelli was such a valuable witness, and it appears that he was, how could the FBI not keep Stefanelli under 24-hour surveillance, even if it was only for the purpose of making sure other mobsters didn’t kill Stefanelli before he could testify at the upcoming mob trials?

As for the effect Stefanelli’s death has on these trials, a source told Jerry Capeci’s Gangland website. “They (the FBI) are not happy about it. They had a lot of cases going. They were not thrilled about this at all.”

But I’m sure Joseph “Uncle Joe” Ligambi and Luigi “Baby Shacks” Manocchio are absolutely giddy the FBI dropped the ball with such a resounding thud. As a result of the FBI not closely monitoring a cooperating witness (Stephanelli), “Uncle Joe” and “Baby Shacks” may be issued a brand new “Get Out Of Jail” card, without even going to trial, or selling the Broadwalk and Park Place.


F(amous) B(ut) I (ncompetent)?

Not usually. But this was a major blunder.

You can view the article below at:


Guilty-conscience mob rat commits suicide


Last Updated: 6:48 AM, March 9, 2012

Posted: 2:35 AM, March 9, 2012

He was a mob rat who needed redemption.

A guilt-ridden Gambino crime family member who spent two years wearing a wire for the FBI was found dead in an apparent suicide before he could testify against a bunch of his underworld cronies — including two bosses, sources said yesterday.

But Nicholas “Nicky Skins” Stefanelli, 69 — who was found dead on Feb. 26 at the Renaissance Meadowlands Hotel in Rutherford, NJ — finished one more piece of murderous Mafia business before he went.

Two days earlier, Stefanelli shot and killed Joseph Rossi Sr., a Bloomfield, NJ, businessman he blamed for the 2010 drug arrest that forced him to become a turncoat, the sources said.

Stefanelli’s death, which was first reported by Gang Land News, has thrown several mob prosecutions into chaos.

He made secret recordings of wiseguys from Philadelphia to Providence while mostly operating in New Jersey — but was also needed to testify against the targets.

While some cases have been crippled, the feds will try to use his recordings to prosecute Philadelphia-area mob boss Joseph “Uncle Joe” Ligambi and former New England boss Luigi “Baby Shacks” Manocchio.

Sources told Gang Land News that federal agents believe Nicky Skins was having second thoughts about betraying fellow mobsters.

“After cooperating for two years, he had pangs of guilt and decided to kill himself to make things right,” a source told the Web site. “But first, he just had to get even with the guy he thought had fingered him.”

A law enforcement source told The Post the FBI is furious over his death.

“They are not happy about it,” the source said. “They had a lot of cases going. They were not thrilled about this at all. ”

Nicky, who was a made member of the Gambino crime family, turned rat after both he and his son, Nicholas Stefanelli Jr., were arrested in 2010 in connection with a drug operation.

The elder Stefanelli agreed to don a wire so his son wouldn’t be hit with charges, according to Gang Land News.

Stefanelli’s body was found around 11 a.m., when a woman believed to be his daughter called the Renaissance hotel front desk to say he was unconscious, the general manager Toni Pinto said.

“She was totally hysterical and crying and screaming. She kept saying that he wasn’t breathing. That’s all she was saying. So we immediately called 911,” Pinto said, adding that Stefanelli appeared to have been dead for a few hours.

“He died peacefully, that I can tell you,” he said. “There was no foul play. The room wasn’t disturbed. There was nothing.”

Officials do not believe Nicky Skins was murdered and are awaiting toxicology reports to confirm his death was a suicide.

Federal sources believe he likely died from a drug overdose.

Sources told The Post that Stefanelli had “paid for his own funeral three or four days before” he died — further evidence of a suicide.

Meanwhile, the FBI is trying to figure out how Nicky Skins managed to kill Rossi.

The 58-year-old was gunned down inside a Bloomfield building where he operated a coin-operated machine distribution business.

Sources said there will be an internal review of the investigation by the FBI and the Justice Department to determine how a federal informant was able to go out and kill someone without being stopped.

Stefanelli was not under federal watch at the time of the Rossi killing.

“You can’t keep somebody locked down 24/7,” a source said. “The FBI has thousands of sources all over.”

Another source said: “This is sensitive. It’s ugly. It’s bad.”

It was also all for nothing.

If Stefanelli hoped his suicide would earn him forgiveness from the mobsters he backstabbed, he was dead wrong.

An underworld source told Gang Land that the wiseguys still think “he was no good.”
Read more:

suicide snitch’s ‘aide’ charged in payback whack


Last Updated: 4:32 AM, March 10, 2012

Posted: 1:13 AM, March 10, 2012

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In a stunning twist to the case of the guilt-ridden mob rat, officials yesterday busted a Mafia hanger-on nicknamed “Lucky” for helping the turncoat wiseguy kill an old enemy before he committed suicide last month.

The FBI and local prosecutors believe José Luis “Lucky” Rivera served as “muscle” and a possible lookout when Nicholas “Nicky Skins” Stefanelli blew away Joker Poker machine peddler Joseph Rossi Sr. on Feb. 24, sources said.

Stefanelli wanted to kill Rossi because he believed the 58-year-old purveyor of illegal video games was responsible for his 2010 arrest on drug charges, which forced him to turn stool pigeon and wear a wire for two years, law-enforcement sources told The Post.


Two days after Rossi was shot dead in his Bloomfield, NJ, business, Stefanelli apparently decided to whack himself.

On Feb. 26, he was found dead in the Renaissance Meadowlands Hotel in Rutherford, NJ.

Nicky Skins’ death came shortly before federal prosecutors were to begin prepping him to testify against his mob cohorts, including the bosses of Philadelphia and New England.

Many of those prosecutions are now in jeopardy because, without Stefanelli’s testimony, it is unclear whether his undercover recordings can be introduced as evidence.

Rivera, 48, of Plainfield, NJ, was slapped yesterday with murder, conspiracy and other charges and ordered held on $1 million bail.

Sources said investigators do not believe that he actually shot Rossi but do believe he tagged along with Stefanelli as a backup.

It was not clear whether Rivera was a Mafia associate or just a local thug Stefanelli recruited for the slaying.

Rossi allegedly ran afoul of Stefanelli after he was busted in 2009 on tax charges and charges related to the illegal video-gamemachine trade.

Sources said that’s when he told authorities that he bought drugs from Stefanelli and his son, Nicholas Jr.

In 2010, father and son were busted and the elder Stefanelli, a made member of the Gambino crime family, agreed to wear a wire during meetings with high-level gangsters.

Joe Bruno on the Mob – Mob Wives – March 4th Show – Part 2

Posted in criminals, crooks, FBI, FBI, Gangs, gangsters, mafia, mobs, Mobsters, New York City, organized crime, police, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 10, 2012 by Joe Bruno's Blogs


March 6, 2012


At the end of  Part 1 of VH1’s “Mob Wives” (the March 4th Edition), we saw our little lovebirds, Renee Graziano and Hector “Junior” Pagan, arguing in Renee’s living room, when Pagan, in a huff, storms out of the living room and bounds up the stairs, presumably to his (theirs?) bedroom.

Mobsters, Gangs, Crooks and Other Creeps-Volume 1 - New York City

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At this point, the show was annoying me so much, I had to stop watching and record the rest.

But as your humble news correspondent, I have a job to do, and by golly, I’m going to do my job no matter how much it distresses, or depresses me. Plus, whenever I write anything on the show “Mob Wives,” my blog readership goes through the roof.

After all, like someone said in Godfather II, “I am not a communist.”

As  you may recall, as Junior climbs the steps away from Renee to avoid her hysterical rantings, Renee screams after him, “You’re running from the truth again! You’re real good at that!”

Cut to Renee in the studio addressing the audience.

Renee – “I just want to settle my mind and get to a place where I am happy. I’d give my life to just have a normal family. Even if I pull my hair all day long. I just want to be normal.”

Editor’s note: How could this woman ever lead a “normal life when her father is in prison and her ex-husband, is now a rat against her father and his pals, and is presently in the Witness Protection Program, practicing his little speech in court that will put  all the defendants in prison for a very long time?

Oh, I forgot, these episodes were shot before it was discovered Pagan was a canary, and anyone watching this show and not familiar with what has transpired since, will be none the wiser. Shame on VH1 and the producer of the show, Jennifer Graziano, Renee’s sister, for not issuing a disclaimer before the show, and after every commercial, setting the record straight. The plain truth is, all these shows that portray Renee and Junior Pagan as getting back together are a bold-faced lie. Renee may have been sincere, but Pagan was lying through his teeth. Maybe he needed the money.

In any event, I will continue……

Fade in: Back to the living room, with Renee and Pagan discussing their past, present, and future lives.

Pagan – referring to their meeting with a marriage counselor. “I think the way it should have been was to work from here on in, and not look back into the past.”

I have to stop right here for a moment. This guy is talking to the Feds, wearing a wire on his friends and his ex-father-in-law, so that he can avoid big time in jail. Of course he’s “working from here on in,” but for only himself, and damn everybody else.

But I digress.

Cut to: Renee  – in the studio — to the audience – “I think Junior’s upbringing made it very hard for him to express himself, but we are trying to make it work.”

Wrong Renee. The last thing on Pagan’s mind is his relationship with you. He’s too busy trying to figure out if the wire he is wearing for the Feds is making him look fat.

We continue……

Fade in: Back to the living room.

Renee to Pagan – “I know everything is not going to be a bed of roses, but I just want to settle my friendships, and settle my marriage and just be happy.”

Pagan to Renee, with a straight face – “It might make us closer.”

Renee (radiant) “That’s why I love you. I just want you to help me.”

Pagan – (scoffs) “Help you? I can’t even help myself.”

Editor’s note:  I think it’s sure as spit that Pagan’s helping himself pretty good by talking to the Feds.

Renee to Junior – “That’s why I’m here. You have me for that.”

Junior just smiles, like he’s thinking, “If she only knew.”

Cut to: Renee back in the studio -  to the audience. “I know that Junior and I will somehow get back together. I’ve always been in love with him and he’ll always be in love with me.”

Talk about delusional.

Cut to: The living room  — Renee to Pagan – “I need a hug.”

She gets up from her chairs, hugs Pagan, and kisses him on the forehead.

Renee to Pagan – “I love you so much.”

I immediately lose my lunch.

As a bit of comic relief, Renee and Pagan show up at a Halloween party thrown in a chic restaurant by one of the other mob wives. They are dressed in identical orange prison jump suits, with serial numbers on the front, and “Department of Correction” on the back. Also at the party is Karen Gravano, dressed as a “naughty nurse.”

That’s all I’m going to say about that.

Cut to: A festive party in a tony restaurant:  A well-dressed middle-aged man is having a great time and entertaining all the girls. He’s dancing; the girls are dancing. Life is wonderful.

Cut to: A burley man whispers something in Pagan’s ears. Pagan looks like he just swallowed spoiled milk.

Cut to: Renee back in the studio —  to the audience – “Something strange is definitely going on with Junior. He’s acting so strange and paranoid. I’ve seen that look on his face before and it always ends up bad.”

It turns out that the guy having a great time at the party is a cop. And Pagan just hates cops. It’s the FBI, Pagan’s in love with.

The  camera pans to the exit of the restaurant. We see their backs, as Pagan and Renee storm out of the party.

Fade out: Over and Out.

I can’t wait for the next episode of “Mob Wives.”Just like I can’t wait for by Dr. Riveter to perform my next root canal operation.

Joe Bruno on the Mob – Johnny Dio – A Gangster’s Gangster

Posted in Cosa Nostra, criminals, disasters, FBI, FBI, Gangs, gangsters, Internal Revenue Service, labor unions, mafia, mobs, Mobsters, murder, New York City, New York City murder, organized crime, police, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 9, 2012 by Joe Bruno's Blogs

                If there was a way to make an illegal buck, Johnny” Dio” Dioguardi, called by Bobby Kennedy the “master labor racketeer,”  had his sticky fingers in the pot. Dio was such a treacherous thug at a young age, in 1936, U.S. Attorney Thomas E. Dewey claimed Dio was, “A young gorilla who began his career at the age of 15.”

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Mobsters, Gangs, Crooks and Other Creeps-Volume 1 – New York City

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            Johnny Dio was born Giovanni (John) Ignazio Dioguardi on April 28, 1914, on Forsyth Street in downtown Manhattan. Dio had three brothers: Frank and Vincent, who were legitimate guys, and Tommaso, or Thomas, who became, as did Johnny Dio , a capo in the Luchesse crime family. Dio also had an unnamed sister who can be identified only as “Mrs. Dioguardi-Priziola.”

 Dio’s father Giovanni B. Dioguardi, who owned a bicycle shop, was murdered in August 1930 on a street in Coney Island, in what police called a “mob-related execution.” It seemed that the elder Dioguardi and another enterprising gentleman had robbed a rich lady of her jewelry, and the two men had were arguing over how to split the proceeds. The elder Dioguardi, who had been arrested twice for murder but never convicted, took six shots to various parts of his body, and it is presumed the other gentleman kept all the jewelry.

Johnny Dio graduated grammar school, but after less than two years at Stuyvesant High School, Dio dropped out and went to work for his uncle on his mother side: gangster James “Jimmy Doyle” Plumeri. By this time, the handsome Dio (who was said to have looked like silent movie star Rudolph Valentino) had already gotten a reputation on the Lower East Side as a tough youth, who terrorized street vendors into giving him a good portion of their wares for free. Uncle Jimmy Doyle (nobody called him by his real name Plumeri), recognizing Dio’s talents for thuggery, immediately put Dio to work as a schlammer (leg-breaker) in the Garment Center for Doyle’s Jewish associates Louie “Lepke” Buchalter and Lepke’s partner Jacob “Gurrah” Shapiro, who were affectionately known as “The Gorilla Boys.” Lepke, along with Albert “The Lord High Executioner” Anastasia, was the head of Murder Incorporated, a group of stone killers who murdered whomever the mob bosses in New York City and around the country said needed to be murdered. However, there is no proof that Dio ever joined that august group. Dio’s specialty was union-related extortion, and in that, he was tops in his field.

Dio and Doyle started a garment workers trucking association, whereby the truckers working in the Garment Center were forced to join the trucker’s union, headed, of course, by Dio and Doyle. If a poor sap trucker decided he didn’t want to join the  union, a trip to the hospital was inevitable, if not a trip to the morgue. The union dues was hefty, but at whatever price they were forced to pay, it was a small price indeed to ensure the  trucker’s continued good health. Of course, the “union dues” never made it into the union’s coffers (it went straight into Dio’s and Doyle’s pockets instead), and phony books were established to satisfy whomever decided to enquire about the trucker’s union’s financial solvency.

Members of the trucker’s union were even told where to spend their money and how much to spend on specific items. Dio and Doyle were pals with a local barber, and they ordered their truckers to patronized this special barber to the nifty tune of $2.50 a month. The truckers were also told where to buy their wine, where to buy their meats, and where to buy their clothing, and how much to spend on each item, which was certainly not at bargain prices.

For several years in the 1930s, Dio and Doyle, with nobody to stop them, had a sweet deal going for themselves in the Garment Center. Besides extorting the truckers, the dynamic duo of Dio and Doyle profited from the other end of the totem pole too. They forced the Garment Center’s clothing manufacturers (bosses) to employ only union truckers. Then they used the clout of their trucker’s union to bulldoze the clothing manufacturers into paying hefty off-the-books fees in order to keep their business up-and-running, and profitable.

If the clothing manufacturers refused to pay the extortion fees, Dio and Doyle would order their union truckers to go on strike, putting a dead stop to the clothing manufacturer’s cash flow. On occasions, if the bosses didn’t play ball, union thugs (schlammers) would break the bosses’ fingers, their arms and legs; and sometimes all three body parts on the same visit.  In extreme cases, like if a boss threatened to talk to the Feds, Lepke’s Murder Incorporated boys would enter the scene, and seconds later, the chatty boss would exit the face of the earth, toes up.

In 1932 and 1933, Dio and Plumeri were indicted twice for extortion, but they beat the rap both times, because their victims refused to talk to the Feds. In 1934, Dio was lucky enough to be elected executive secretary of the Allied Truckmen’s Mutual Association, an association of employers. Even though Dio was boss of the trucker’s union, he represented their employers during a strike by 1,150 Teamsters in September 1934.

            Nice work if you can get it.

However, in 1937, both Dio and Doyle ran out of luck. The nephew and uncle duo were indicted for extortion and “atrocious assault.” During the trial it was alleged that Dio and Doyle, and several other of their gangster underlings, had been extorting as much as $500 from each trucker. Plus, it was alleged they had forced the clothing manufacturers to add a hefty “tariff” to every suit, coat, and pair of pants manufactured in the Garment Center. This tariff went straight in the pockets of Dio and Doyle, and that increased the cost of good for the general public.

Sweet deal indeed.

According to an article in the New York Daily Mirror, “At the trial, frightened witnesses testified how recalcitrant employers and employees were beaten when they refused to pay. One man said he was confined to bed for two weeks after an assault. Another said the hoodlums had threatened to cut off his ears.”

Realizing they were dead in the water, during the middle of the trial, both Dio and Doyle pled guilty as charged. In return they received free room and board in upstate Sing Sing Prison for a period of three-five years.

After he was released from prison, Dio decided New York City was too hot for him, so he moved to Allentown, Pennsylvania, where he took up roots long enough to open his own dress manufacturing plant; non-union, of course. He later sold the plant, and to guarantee the new owners would have no trouble, Dio took $11,200 under the table to ensure that his erstwhile plant would remain non-union.

Dio sped back to New York City, and using the same tactics he had employed in Allentown, he  set up a dress wholesaler. Using his profits from the business, Dio was smart enough to buy legitimate businesses, which included real estate and trucking. He also dabbled in the stock market, making him seem to the IRS as just another tax-paying citizen. But the New York City police knew better. They just couldn’t pin anything illegal on Dio, although they continued trying.

Back in his old Forsyth Street neighborhood, Dio decided to start a family. He married the former Anne Chrostek (a non-Italian). She bore Dio two sons (Philip and Dominick) and one daughter (Rosemary) who sadly passed away from an unknown illness. It was during this time that Dio, before the age of forty, was officially inducted into the Luchesse Crime Family, making him all the more untouchable on the streets of New York City. Even though they were only Italian on their father’s side, both of Dio’s sons eventually followed in their father’s footsteps into a life of crime. Philip Dio, who was called “Fat Philly,” was later inducted into the Colombo Crime Family, while Dominick, like his father, became a made man in the Luchesse Crime Family.

(Editor’s note: The Mafia rules changed around this time to allow more members to be inducted into the “Honored Society,” to fill the gaps of those who either were killed or sent to the can;  “college” as the mob likes to call it. At this point, only your father (not both parents) had to be Italian for you to get “your button.” If your mother was Italian and your father a non-Italian — you were spit out of luck. Them’s the breaks.)

By the 1950’s, Dio had become a powerful captain (capo) in the Luchesse Crime Family, and with money pouring into his coffers in bundles (he allegedly earned $100,000 a week), he started living the life of a colonial baron. In the early 1960s, Dio moved his family into a spacious estate out on Freeport, Long Island, which cost Dio $75,000 in cash (Dio didn’t like banks or bank loans). During the week, Dio ate with his cronies in the best New York City eateries (his favorite being the trendy Black Angus Steakhouse). But, as is the Italian custom, Sundays were strictly for the family (famiglia). Inviting family member and close friends, Dio was proud of the fact he was an expert cook and was personally able to conjure up the best Italian delicacies to delight his guests. Dio was especially gracious to his wife, whom he loved dearly (unlike most mob men, Dio was faithful to his wife). Instead of personally buying his wife Christmas presents, Dio would give her a shoe box stuffed with cash, with a little note saying, “Buy yourself some nice clothes, honey.”

During the 1950’s, through his connections with New York City Teamster leaders Martin Lacey and John O’Rourke,  Dio became tight pals with Teamster big-wig Jimmy Hoffa. Dio and Hoffa  first met in a secret meeting in a New York City hotel room, and Hoffa, who had hoped to unseat Teamster President Dave Beck, figured  Dio, with his union background, would be the perfect person to become chums with. In late 1955, Dio was able to obtain charters from the Teamsters to set up seven Teamster locals, called “paper locals,” because they did not have actual teamsters as members. The roles were filled with Dio’s relatives and pals, and their vote for teamster president was in Hoffa’s back pocket.

Dio’s modus operandi for more than 30 years was this: control the unions, then use the unions as a sledgehammer over the heads of the bosses. Dio would tell the bosses, “Pay or my boys will strike.”  The bosses always paid, the workers always got screwed, and Dio made out like a bandit every time.

During his illustrious criminal career, Dio controlled the unions to the detriment of its members to such an extent, that during the 1950’s McClellan Committee hearings into organized crime, the committee issued the statement, “It cannot be said, using the widest possible latitude, that Johnny Dioguardi was ever interested in bettering the lot of the workingman.”

Famous Mafia turncoat Joe Valachi owned a dress factory on Prospect Avenue in the Bronx for 12 years. Valachi once said, “I never belonged to any union. If I got into any trouble, any union organizer came around, all I had to do was call Johnny Dio and all my troubles were straightened out.”

However, in 1956, as the Teamsters elections neared and they were scheming for control, both Hoffa and Dio had a stone in their shoe, and his name was syndicated newspaper columnist Victor Riesel.

Victor Riesel was born on March 16, 1913 on the Lower East Side to Jewish parents in a mixed Italian/Jewish neighborhood, not far from where Dio grew up.  Victor’s father, Nathan Riesel, was very proactive in union activities and was instrumental in creating the Bonnaz, Singer, and the Hard Embroiderers Unions. In 1913, he also helped organized Local 66 of the International Ladies Garment Workers Union, and soon he was elected secretary-treasurer of that union, then finally president.

When Victor Riesel was a young child, his father taught him how to make union speeches, which the young Victor fiercely gave at union meetings and at outdoor union rallies. Nathan Riesel was hard-line anti-communist, and he was strident in preventing the communists from infiltrating his locals. Victor saw his father return  home many times, beaten and bloodied from fights he had with communists activists, or the mobsters (schlammers) who were hired by the factory owners to break up union strikes that Nathan Riesel had participated in. This formed the notion in Victor Riesel’s young mind that gangsters were the bane of legitimate unions.

In 1926, Nathan Riesel moved his family to the Bronx, where Victor attended and graduated with honors from Morris High School. While in high school, Riesel began working as an “stringer” for several newspapers throughout America. His writings were mostly about the labor movement in the United States, and how they were hampered by a “gangster element,” who sought to play both ends of the spectrum by infiltrating the unions, then working for the boss manufacturers to physically quell any union strikes or demonstrations. In 1928, Riesel enrolled in night classes in the City College of New York City (CCNY), where he took courses in human resource management and industrial relations. To support himself while attending night school, Riesel worked at strenuous jobs, both in a steel mill and in a saw mill. While in college, Riesel also worked as a columnist, then as an editor on the student newspaper. Besides writing columns on the labor movement, Riesel also wrote columns on varied subjects like literature, and the theater.

While in college, to get needed experience in the outside newspaper world, Riesel took a job as a general office boy at The New Leader, a political and cultural weekly magazine that was both liberal and anti-communist. Riesel cuts his teeth in the business by doing anything his bosses at the newspaper told him to do, including sweeping the floors, and writing columns for the newspaper. In 1940, after 12 long years of hard work, both in and out of school, Riesel finally earned his Bachelor of Business Administration from CCNY. He was offered the job as the managing editor at The New Leader, and he took the job with the determination of ridding the unions of “gangsterism.”

Riesel caught his first big break, when in 1941, he was hired as a columnist for The New York Post. In the 1948, when the Post changed management, Riesel switched to the New York Daily Mirror, owned by newspaper magnate William Randolph Hurst. By 1956, Riesel’s column was syndicated in 193 newspapers throughout the United States. In that same year, Riesel began working in conjunction with United States Attorney Paul Williams, with the expressed purpose of taking on the gangsters who ran the New York City garment and trucking unions.

This was a double whammy for Johnny Dio, who was heavily involved in both unions, and for Jimmy Hoffa, who was trying to unseat Dave Beck as head of the Teamsters.

On April 5, 1956, Riesel was asked to be a guest host on Barry Gray’s WMCA overnight radio talk show. Riesel had recently been on a rant in his columns concerning the International Union of Operating Engineers and its President William DeKoning Jr., who Riesel claimed was conspiring with known labor gangster Joseph Fay to reinstall DeKoning’s father William DeKoning Sr. as the president of the union. DeKoning Sr. had just exited the can after being imprisoned for extortion, and Riesel felt that having the senior DeKoning back as president of the union would be a downright disaster.

As a result of his columns on both DeKonings and Fay, Riesel received numerous death threats. However, Riesel shrugged them off, knowing only a fool would hurt an esteemed member of the press. Doing so would certainly result in the law coming down hard on all union racketeers, and their rackets.

On this particular radio show, Riesel invited two members of the International Union of Operating Engineers, who were challenging the DeKonings for control of the union. This did not sit too well with Johnny Dio, or with Jimmy Hoffa, who both figured Riesel would go gunning for them next.

Gray’s show originated  at Hutton’s Restaurant on Lexington Avenue and 47th Street. After the show, which ended at 2 a.m., Riesel and his secretary moseyed over to Lindy’s restaurant, on Broadway between 49th and 50th Street, to grab a bite to eat and drown the food down with hot steaming coffee. (Ironically, this was the same Lindy’s Restaurant in front of which small-time gambler Herman Rosenthal was shot to death in 1912.)

At approximately 3 a.m., Riesel and his secretary emerged from Lindy’s and started walking toward the secretary’s parked car on 51st Street. Riesel wore his eyeglasses to work, but when he was out in public, for appearances sake, he normally removed his eyeglasses. Just as Riesel and his secretary neared the secretary’s car, Riesel took off his eyeglasses, put them in an eyeglass case, and inserted the case into the breast pocket of his overcoat. Suddenly, a tall, thin man, wearing a blue and white jacket, sprung from the shadows of the Mark Hellinger Theater and flung a vial contain sulfuric acid into Riesel’s eyes, rendering Riesel blind for the rest of his life. Then the assailant calmly walked away and disappeared into the night. Thereafter, Riesel wore sunglasses to shield the public from the sight of his severely disfigured eyes.

The day after the attack, the Daily Mirror offered a $10,000 reward for information that led to the capture and conviction of Riesel’s assailant. The Newspaper Guild of America, the New York Press Photographers, the New York Reporters Association, and the Overseas Press Club chipped in with another five grand. In less than a week, donations from assorted groups, including the labor unions and radio station WMCA, had raised the reward total to $41,000.

With tips coming in in droves, some reliable, some not so reliable, in August of 1956, the FBI ascertained that Riesel’s assailant had been small-time hood Abraham Telvi. The only problem was, Telvi was now deceased; apparently murdered on July 28 because he had demanded another $50,000 on top of the paltry $500 he had already been paid for throwing the acid in Riesel’s face.

On August 29, Dio was arrested for conspiracy in the Riesel attack. Dio pled not guilty and was released on $100,000 bond.

On October 22, Dio’s pal Joseph Carlino pled guilty to hiring Telvi to attack Riesel. Carlino implicated two other men, Gandolfo Maranti and Dominick Bando, as accomplices in hiring Telvi.  Carlino also said that Dio had ultimately given the order for the attack. Dio lawyered up with a top New York City mob attorney, and his attorney was able to get Dio’s trial severed from the trial of Maranti and Bando.

At their trial, both Maranti and Bando verified Carlino’s assertion that Dio had engineered the attack against Riesel. Maranti and Bando were both found guilty of conspiracy. But their sentencing was delayed until after the Dio trial.

Dio’s attorney was able to delay his trial for almost six months, and during this time Maranti and Bando began to have bouts of memory loss. When Dio’s trial finally commenced, both Maranti and Bando recanted their testimony, and with no corroboration of Carlino’s claim that Dio ordered the Riesel attack, all charges against Dio were dropped. Maranti was given 8-16 years in prison, and Bando 2-5 years in prison, and another 5 years for contempt of court. Amazingly,  Carlino received a suspended sentence for aiding the law  in the convictions of Maranti and Bando. However, no matter how the situation was cleared or not cleared up in court, Dio has forever been remembered as the man who “blinded Victor Riesel.”

In October of 1956, Dio was indicted, along with several Teamster officials, on extortion and conspiracy charges. The indictment said that Dio had extorted money from New York City Garment Center truck drivers, and had also extorted money from Garment Center manufacturing bosses not to have the same truck drivers go out on strike. Also included in the indictment was the alleged extortion of New York City stationery store owners, whose stores Dio’s men had picketed. The store owners were allegedly told that if they wanted the picketing stopped, they would have to force their employees to join Teamster Local 295, and hire Johnny Dio’s “labor consulting” firm, Equitable (not) Research Associates, for a $3,500 retainer, and $200 a month salary.

Because Dio’s attorneys were so adept at stalling tactics, and the fact that key government witnesses had recanting their testimony, Dio’s trial did not take place until November of 1957.

The trial took four weeks, but when it ended, Dio was convicted as charged and sentenced to two years in prison. While in prison, Dio was indicted again on extortion charges. This time, instead of the victims being stationery store owners, they were the owners of electroplating shops. In 1958, Dio was convicted again, and this time the judge threw the book at Dio, sentencing him to 15-30 years. Dio began serving his time in Sing Sing Prison, while appealing his sentence. On June 23, 1959, an appeals court inexplicable overturned the decision in Dio’s trial, saying that since Dio didn’t issue the threats personally, he should not have been convicted of extortion. A split court ruled, “Extortion cannot be committed by one who does not himself induce fear, but who receives money for the purpose of removing or allaying pre-existing fear instilled by others.”

Jonathan Kwitney said in his book Vicious Circles, “The decision seemed to legitimize the whole purpose of the Mafia.”

However, the law was not finished with Johnny Dio. On June 24, 1959,  one hour after he finished his two-year bit on the first extortion charge, Dio was pinched by the Feds and charged with income tax evasion; for non-payment of taxes for three dress manufacturing companies he owned (non-union, of course), and two labor union locals. Dio went on trial in March of 1960. He was found guilty and was sentenced to four years at the federal prison in Atlanta, Georgia. Dio was released in March of 1963, partially on the basis that he had obtained a real job in a legitimate industry. Dio claimed he was now a salesman for Consumers Kosher Provision Company, another sham job that provided Dio the opportunity to do what he had done in several other industries before. This time it was the kosher meat business that would pay the piper for Dio’s Machiavellian machinations.

At first, the scam worked like a charm. Dio and a bunch a his mobster buddies separately approached two rival kosher meat companies and convinced both of them that their business would be ruined if they did not hire their group of thugs to fight back against the other company’s group of thugs. The two competing companies were the Consumers Kosher Provision Company, run by a dupe named Herman Rose, and the American Kosher Provision Inc., who had employed mobster Max Block (he had just been forced to resign as head of the butcher’s union) to make sure other mobsters didn’t try to shake down American Kosher. Block’s muscle was provided by Genovese thug Lorenzo “Chappy” Brescia, who had been extorting the butcher’s union for years. According to Vicious Circles, Block was receiving an annual salary of $50,000 a year from American Kosher, and Brescia’s cut was $25,000 a year.

This is where Dio began working his magic in the kosher meat business. Through two intermediaries, Dio approached Herman Rose and convinced Rose that in order to compete with American Kosher, it was imperative Rose hire Johnny Dio to protect his interests. Rose figured this was the right thing to do and he hired Dio at the salary of $250 a week; not an exorbitant amount of money. But it gave Dio the appearance of an honest job, and it gave the Mafia the opportunity to control the prices in the two top kosher meat companies in the area. (This is why, overnight the price of kosher meats skyrocketed.)

After Herman Rose died in 1964, Dio convinced the Kleinberg family, which owned the majority of stock in Consumer Kosher that it was good business to merge with American Kosher. The Kleinbergs, trembling in their boots, agreed with Dio’s assessment, and with the mob running both companies, the “bust-out business” in the kosher meat industry began in full throttle. 

Soon, Dio and his pals, using their usual tactics, began scooping up, and creating from scratch, other small kosher meat companies. Stock was transferred back and forth between the companies, and so were the assets, which included the kosher meat itself. First, Consumer Kosher went bankrupt; then did American Kosher. The other Dio-controlled companies started acquiring the meats (that had not been paid for), and one by one, they too declared bankruptcy, only to be acquired by another sham company owned by, what the newspapers called, “The Kosher Nostra.” The suppliers of the meat out west, because of the multiple bankruptcy proceeding, were stiffed of their meat payments. According to New York Post reporter Marvin Smilon, one of these meat providers had the temerity to ask one of Dio’s meat cronies, “Why do we have to deal with Dio?” He was told, “Sit down and be quiet. You ask too many questions.”

But all good things must come to an end. In 1966, Dio, along with four of his associates, were indicted for “bankruptcy fraud.” In 1967, they were all found guilty, and Dio was sentenced to five years in prison. However, with his high-powered attorneys working their magic, Dio was able to stay out of prison for almost four years. This gave Dio the extra time he needed to work another scam, called “The Great Mafia Bagel War.”

It started with Ben Willner, who had a machine that could make automated bagels, for around 50 cents a bagel, whereas a hand-rolled bagel cost about 65 cents to produce. This was not good news for the Bakery and Confectioners Workers Union, because it put their member’s jobs at risk. Willner was great pals with Moe Steinman, who didn’t care too much how the bagels were being made, because he had a stranglehold on bagel distribution, not bagel production. Willner ran to Steinman, and Steinman, hoping to help his pal out, introduced Willner to Johnny Dio, whom Steinman knew was an expert at “labor-related problems.” Dio helped out Willner, for a piece of the pie of course, and soon Steinman was packing his supermarkets with anywhere from $3,000 to $4,000 worth of Willner’s bagels a week.

The only problem was that Genovese Crime Family capo Thomas “Tommy Ryan” Eboli had his own bagel maker, who was being short-changed because of the Willner/Dio/automated bagel-making machine trio. This man was named Arthur Goldberg and he ran to Eboli, screaming. Eboli demanded a sit-down with Dio, who had been with the Luchesse Family for more than 30 years. At the time, in the New York City Mafia pecking order, the Genovese Family was much more powerful than the Luchesse Family, and Dio was effectively pushed out of the bagel business for good. Dio broke the bad news to Willner, and as a result, in December of 1969, Willner was forced to close shop. This led to the Eboli/Goldberg crew taking over Willner’s business, and his automated bagel-making machines.

Dio felt bad about losing his bagel scheme, but he felt even worse, when in November of 1970, he ran out of appeals and was forced to go to prison for a five-year stretch at the federal prison at Lewisburg, P.A. on the bankruptcy fraud charges. (He did not Pass Go, and he did not collect the customary two hundred dollars.)

In 1972, while still in prison, Dio was indicted again, this time for stock fraud, concerning the At Your Service Leasing Corp., a luxury car leasing firm that did most of its business with organized crime figures. It was alleged that in 1969, before Dio went to prison, Dio, along with Carmine Tramunti, Vincent Aloi, and Michael Hellerman, “floated” $300,000 of false stock in the car leasing company. Dio’s group then either bribed, or forced security dealers to sell the stock, and then turn over the money to the Dio investment group. The jury found Dio guilty, and he was hit when a knockout blow when he was sentenced to nine and ten-year prison terms, to run consecutively. Dio appealed his convictions twice, but he lost both appeals.

Johnny “Dio” Dioguardi never was a free man again. Dio died on January 12, 1979, in a Pennsylvania hospital, where he had been transferred to from federal prison. To add insult to injury, Dio was scheduled for parole in just a few short months.

The news of Johnny Dio’s death did not receive an inch of space in any of the New York City daily newspapers, even though a paid death notice appeared a few days after his death in the New York Daily News.

It was as if Johnny Dio, a gangster’s gangster if there ever was one, had never existed.

Joe Bruno on the Mob – Mob Wives – March 4th Show

Posted in Cosa Nostra, criminals, crooks, FBI, FBI, Gangs, gangsters, mafia, mobs, Mobsters, New York City, organized crime, police, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 7, 2012 by Joe Bruno's Blogs

Mobsters, Gangs, Crooks and Other Creeps-Volume 1 - New York City

Mobsters, Gangs, Crooks and Other Creeps-Volume 1 – New York City

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March 7, 2012

In a starling turn of developments, on Monday, March 5, I had an amazing 1104 hits (in one day) on my blog Joe Bruno on the Mob. And more than half of them came on previous articles I had written on the show “Mob Wives,” or on the characters in the show (and I do mean characters): Renee Graziano, her ex-husband-turned-government-informant Hector “Junior” Perez,” or on Karen Gravano, the daughter of mob turncoat Sammy “The Bull” Gravano. So in the interest of giving the public what it wants, your humble news correspondent (No, I don’t mean Bill O’Reilly) has voluntarily taken on the task of giving the public periodic updates on the going’s on of the show “Mob Wives, “ so infantile and annoying, it makes my nose hairs hurt.

I know; it’s a dirty job, but someone has to do it. Besides, let’s face it, I need the readership.

Because I’m a lucky guy, on Monday, March 5th, I was able to see a rerun of the last “Mob Wives” show, which aired on Sunday night, March 4th. The basic premise of the show was that two mob wives, who have severe animosities towards each other, have decided to throw separate Halloween parties on the same night, basically to annoy each other to death. Putting that aside, because it’s hardly newsworthy (if anything on the show is), I’ll get to the meat of the show, which is the interaction between Renee Graziano and her ex-husband Pagan, who when this show was shot last October, were inexplicably trying to get back together. Or at least Renee thought so, since Pagan was already a couple of months into being a mob informant, and was secretly taping every mob associate in sight, including Renee’s father Anthony Graziano, and reputed Bonanno capo Anthony “TV” Badalamenti.

As I’ve stated before, both the producer of the show and VH1 are being disingenuous by not giving the viewing audience a clue as to the present situation with Pagan now being a government informant (unknown then, but very known now). It’s obvious now that Renee was basically wasting her time in these episodes, trying to make a relationship work with a man who had no intention of ever getting back together with her. Unless of course, Pagan expected Renee, and their son A.J., to join him in the Witness Protection Program; which could never happen. But I’ve harped on this before, and still, there has been no attempt from the producer of the show, Jennifer Graziano (Renee’s sister) or VH1 to set the record straight. They proceed as if Pagan has never been arrested, and has never worn a wire, and is not presently in the Witness Protection Program.

Be that as it may, I continue…….

In the previous show, Renee and Pagan had been seeing a marriage counselor to see if they could make a second go-around on a marriage that didn’t work out so good the first time around. (Again, Pagan was just going through the motions because he was already in bed with Team America.) The March 4th show starts with Renee speaking to the camera and saying, “After seeing the marriage counselor, things are not getting better (between her and Pagan) they are getting worse!”

Then the cameras cut to a tender living room scene where Renee is sitting opposite Pagan, who looks like he rather be sitting in solitary confinement in Alcatraz Prison than in the same room with Renee.

Renee to Pagan – “You in a bad mood?”

Pagan to Renee – “You know I am.”

Renee- “OK. What can I do to make it better?”

Pagan – “Time.”

Now here is where it gets a little confusing. Does Pagan mean he wishes he was doing his time in prison already? Or does he mean he wishes Renee was doing time in prison instead? Or is he just uttering the generic term “time?”

Like it makes a difference.

So we continue……

Renee to the camera – “We go to the marriage counselor to talk about things from the past, and now he’s mad at me?”

Back to the living room with the two love birds.

Renee to Pagan – “If you are mad at me for what I said to the marriage counselor, you must be crazy!”

Pagan to Renee – “I’m crazy?”

Renee – “I said what I said on purpose to get you mad.”

Pagan (starting to stand) – “You want me to leave; I’ll go pack my bags and leave.”

Renee (in tears) – “I don’t want you to leave. (more tears) I apologize for what I said.”

Pagan (defiant) – An apology doesn’t change the way I feel.”

Cut to Renee back in the studio. She says to the camera, “He’s lucky I didn’t hit him in the head with a frying pan!”

By this time, I’d like to hit myself in the hand with a frying pan for watching this nonsense. But as your humble news correspondent, I force myself to continue viewing something that reminds me of the Titanic bashing into that darn iceberg.

Back to Renee and Pagan in the living room.

Renee to Pagan – “You’re making me crazy!”

Pagan puts his hands to his ears to drown out Renee’s shrill screams. Then, without saying a word, he gets up and exits the room, climbing the stairs to the upper floor.

Renee yells at his back – “You’re running from the truth again! You’re real good at that!”

The show is not half over, but I decide to tape the rest, so that I can take a few valium to calm my nerves from all the melodrama (I don’t have valium, so I guess a bottle of Scotch will have to do). There’s only so much your humble news correspondent can take in one sitting.

End of Part 1.

Stay tuned for part 2.

Joe Bruno on the Mob – Karen Gravano on the Cover of Mob Candy Magazine

Posted in Cosa Nostra, criminals, crooks, Gangs, gangsters, mafia, mobs, Mobsters, New York City, organized crime, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 4, 2012 by Joe Bruno's Blogs

Mobsters, Gangs, Crooks and Other Creeps-Volume 1 - New York City

Mobsters, Gangs, Crooks and Other Creeps-Volume 1 – New York City

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I must admit I vaguely heard of Mob Candy Magazine, but I wasn’t sure exactly what it was. (Were they selling chocolates in the shape of a gun?)

                So I went to its website, and low and behold, there’s a video posted that was aired on the VH1 Show “Mob Wives,” which features  an interview with Karen Gravano, daughter of mob rat Sammy “The Bull” Gravano. The reason for the interview, was — get this – Mob Candy, not only is publishing the interview with Karen, but they are also displaying a seductive photo of her on the cover of Mob Candy. I got a sneak preview of the cover, and there Karen was, dressed in a black and white dress; her hands on her hips, lips pursed in a slight  snarl, which seems to say, “Yeah, that’s right! What about it!”

                Not very sexy. Sort of  like a Mack truck glaring down at a tiny Volkswagen before it crushes the smaller car under its wheels.

                My first reaction to the cover was that Karen looks about 30 pounds lighter than she does on “Mob Wives.” Then I saw on the same page a previous cover with Renee Graziano as the cover girl. Renee looks much lighter than she does on “Mob Wives” too.  But unlike Karen, Renee looks downright foxy; white wraparound dress with right shoulder exposed; black belt and black sequined gloves, with the forefinger of her left hand placed gently between her pursed lips.

                Very sexy indeed.  

                No doubt, Hector “Junior” Pagan,” another rat like Sammy, wasn’t good-looking enough for this girl.

                Renee’s  just not my type of gal. But alluring nevertheless.

                However, both covers give praise to the wonders of Photoshop. Heck, with the proper  technique, Mob Candy could make Camryn Manheim  look 50 pounds lighter. Michael Moore too.

                Mob Candy had some big lug with a Brooklyn accent and a loopy smile, wearing a stupid cap, conducting  the interview with Karen; asking questions Mob Candy claims nobody else had the nerve to ask.  After Karen made her grand entrance and proclaimed, “Now I feel like a Mob Princess, “ the interview went something like this:


MC – “What do you say to our readers who say your father disgraced the Mafia by ratting on his best friend?

KG – “If they don’t understand the  Mafia, then they shouldn’t speak about  it.”

JB’s comment (That’s me) ‘’Karen, the problem is that people do understand the Mafia; do understand the rules and regulations; what you should do and what you must never do. That’s why some people are outraged that your father ever became a government informant.”

MC – “Would you have done the same thing as your father; given the same situation as your father? (Become a  government informant)

KG – (Hesitates) It’s hard for me to answer that because I wasn’t in his situation.”

JB’s comment  – “That sound like a definite maybe to me.”

MC – Has anyone messed with you since you’ve been back? (in New York)

KG – (Defiant) Messed with me? You could call my father Sammy the Bull, or Sammy the Rat. But he’s still family; he’s still my father. So if you mess with me, you’re going to have a problem. Point Blank! Period!”

JB’s comment  – (Almost speechless, but not quite) I guess that was a roundabout promo for future episodes of “Mob Wives.”

                Ladies go back to your corners and wait for the bell to ring. Then come out wailing.

                Nails and teeth are allowed; no guns or knives.

                Sorry, I won’t be around to see it.

                 I rather watch reruns of the Lawrence Welk Show.



Joe Bruno on the Mob – Families of Sammy Gravano’s Murder Victims Seek Profits From Karen Gravano’s New Book.

Posted in Cosa Nostra, criminals, crooks, FBI, FBI, Gangs, gangsters, mafia, mobs, Mobsters, New York City murder, organized crime, police, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 28, 2012 by Joe Bruno's Blogs


It might be a losing battle for the families of the murder victims of Sammy “The Bull” Gravano, but it might be a fight worth fighting,  just on principles.

Mobsters, Gangs, Crooks and Other Creeps-Volume 1 - New York City

Mobsters, Gangs, Crooks and Other Creeps-Volume 1 – New York City

Buy from Amazon

            The families of Sammy “The Bull” Gravano’s murder victims, although they were unsuccessful in suing Sammy Gravano  in New York State court, did received a settlement in Arizona, under  the “Son of Sam” law, of  $420,000 split eight ways, or $52,500 for each of the eight families involved in the lawsuit. This money was taken from Sammy Gravano’s share of the profits from  his 1997 book “Underboss.” Now the families of his victims want the same deal on the basis of the profits from  Karen Gravano’s new book, “Mob Princess, Sammy the Bull and Me.” Their argument is that Karen Gravano is also profiting from the death of their relatives.

So far the family’s legal attempts at monetary compensation have been unsuccessful.

 Karen Gravano, one of the stars of VH1’s “Mob Wives,” said in a recent television interview promoting her book, “I did not commit these crimes. I’m just writing a book about my life.”

However, the families of Sammy Gravano’s victims (he admitted to being involved with 19 murders) feel differently.

“My brother was killed once in real life; my brother was killed in Sammy’s book. My brother was killed in her book. Enough is enough,” said Rosanne Massa, concerning her brother, Michael Debatt. “Having our family members killed over and over again is not a way to hold to our hearts the memories that we have.”

Although Massa described DeBatt as a “good kid” and talented football player, the truth is DeBatt willingly got himself involved in “the life,” and paid for it with his life. However, this did not make a difference in the Arizona lawsuit against Sammy Gravano, nor should it be relative now.

Lynda Milito was the wife of mobster Louie Milito, who was also offed by Sammy Gravano. She said recently, “I’ve had it; I’ve really had it.”

However, this claims sounds a little hollow since Lynda Milito wrote her own Mafia book in 2003 entitled “Mafia Wife: My Story of Love, Murder and Madness.”  Lynda Milito claims her case is different than Karen Gravano’s because she supported herself and her children by working as a real estate agent. That claim is hard to prove and hard to disprove, but the fact remains that her dead husband was a mobster too, and once you enter into “the life,” you know your neck is on the chopping block 24 hours of every day.

Laura Garofalo, whose mobster father Edward was killed by Sammy Gravano in 1990, also chipped in with her feelings about Karen Gravano and her new book. She said, “It’s harrowing to hear Karen Gravano boast week after week on her reality show Mob Wives that violence is ‘in my bloodline.’ She continues to utilize her and her father’s criminal enterprises to lure viewers and generate revenue for herself and VH1.”

True Laura, but your father was up to his neck in the mob too, and he paid for it with his own neck.

In fact, most, if not all, of Sammy Gravano’s murder victims were deeply involved in organized crime. They chose this life to live, but that didn’t mean Sammy Gravano had the right to kill them; nobody has the right to take another person’s life.

However, I find it hard to generate the same amount of sympathy for the families of mobsters who were murdered as I can for the families of innocent civilians who were murdered, either by the mob or otherwise. However, the character of the murder victims should have no bearing on any upcoming family lawsuits concerning the profits from Karen Gravano book.

The bottom line is this: whereas what Karen Gravano’s is doing by appearing on “Mob Wives,” and writing her book about her “Life With Father,” may stink to high heaven, I still don’t see how the families of her father’s victims have a legitimate case under the “Son of Sam Law,” which basically says you can’t profit from crimes you have committed by either writing a book, or having a movie made based on your life (tee shirts and coolie cups are out too). The law says nothing about members of your family being banned from doing the same thing.

Can the law be changed? It’s doubtful, but that doesn’t stop the victim’s families from trying to do something. Laura Garofalo admitted as much when she said in a letter to the Arizona AG., “We hope at least to get the law changed so it has more teeth.”

Good luck trying. But I think this lawsuit will reach the inevitable “dead end.”

“Dead End” was a mob movie too.


You can read the articles below at:




Mob Widows Cry Foul Over “Mob Daughter” Book

by Joe Teutonico on Feb 22nd, 2012

A new book by the daughter of snitching sociopath Sammy the Bull Gravano has the families of her father’s victims – including one woman who lives in Bensonhurst – up in arms.

Karen Gravano is also one of the four main cast members of trashy VH1 reality show Mob Wives.

Between the TV show and book, nine families of Gravano’s victims are hoping to get the existing laws changed so that people like his daughter Karen will no longer be able to profit from their relatives’ misdeeds.

The same group of victims’ families, through legal action under the so-called ‘Son of Sam’ law, saw more than $400,000 from Salvatore Gravano’s own 1997 memoir, Underboss, writes SILive. Karen Gravano’s new book Mob Daughter has many of them wishing they could do the same to her.

“I’ve had it, I’ve really had it,” said Lynda Milito of Florida, the widow of Gambino capo Louie Milito, who authored her own 2003 tell-all “Mafia Wife: My Story of Love, Murder and Madness.” Ms. Milito insists she never profited her husband’s underworld activities, because she supported herself and her children as a real estate agent.

Rosanna Massa, the sister of one of Gravano’s victims and a Bensonhurst resident, told SILive that the book release has reopened old wounds.

“My brother was killed once in real life;  my brother was killed in Sammy’s book. My brother was killed in her book. Enough is enough,” said Rosanne Massa, of Bensonhurst, about her brother, Michael Debatt — a good kid, she said who went to Catholic High School, and played football on scholarship and then sadly got wrapped up in that world and murdered by Gravano in 1987. “The ‘Son of Sam’ Law should be amended so no family member of that criminal should be able to profit.”

As with most reality TV personalities, many who claim to find Karen Gravano abhorrent still manage to catch her in action on Mob Wives every Sunday night.

The allure of “the lifestyle”, as it’s called by Karen on the show, seems to even have some of the potential plaintiffs tuning in.

Massa told reporters that despite the bitter history, she still watches Mob Wives religiously.

Kin of Sammy The Bull Gravano’s victims boiling mad over new book


Friday, February 10, 2012

The outraged families of murderous mob underboss Salvatore (Sammy Bull) Gravano’s gangland victims want a whack at the profits from his daughter’s upcoming memoir.

The Daily News has learned they are enlisting the Arizona state attorney general to go after Karen Gravano’s earnings from “Mob Daughter” — due out on Valentine’s Day.

“It’s harrowing to hear Karen Gravano boast week after week on her reality show ‘Mob Wives’ that violence is ‘in my bloodline,’ c wrote in a letter to the Arizona AG.

She was 17 when her dad, Edward, was slain by Gravano in 1990.

“She continues to utilize her and her father’s criminal enterprises to lure viewers and generate revenue for herself and VH1,” Garofalo said.

The Arizona prosecutor’s office helped the families split $420,000 from The Bull’s own bestselling literary effort “Underboss,” written by noted author Peter Maas.

Sammy Bull did just five years in jail for 19 mob murders as a reward for testifying against late Gambino boss John Gotti.

The rat went right back to his life of crime dealing drugs after he was released and is back in prison for 20 years.

Karen Gravano and her brother, Gerard, were convicted in 2001 of participating in his Ecstasy drug ring in Arizona.

Karen Gravano did not return a call for comment Thursday.

“My brother was killed by Sammy, then he was killed again when he wrote his book and now he’s being killed a third time in her book,” said Roseanne Massa, whose brother Michael DeBatt was shot dead in 1987 on Salvatore Gravano’s orders.

“Having our family members killed over and over again is not a way to hold to our hearts the memories that we have.”

Massa and several families had sued Salvatore Gravano unsuccessfully under the New York state Son of Sam law because he was convicted of federal, not state crimes.

But they prevailed in Arizona, which has a similar statute. Eight families received checks for $52,500 from Gravano’s assets seized by authorities investigating the drug ring.

Garofalo has also written to New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and a former federal prosecutor who now works for Gov. Cuomo.

Garofalo and Massa have been seething since Karen Gravano began appearing in the VH1 reality show “Mob Wives” two years ago with the daughters of a Bonanno capo and wives of several mob wanna-bes.

In an interview with The News for her upcoming book, Karen Gravano said the public’s fascination with the Gambino crime family in its heyday hasn’t abated.

“There’s never been another John Gotti and there’s never been another Sammy (The Bull) Gravano,” she said.

Garofalo acknowledges collecting a dime from Karen Gravano is an uphill battle.

“We hope at least to get the law changed so it has more teeth,” she said.

Criminal Justice

Mob Murder Victims’ Relatives Seek Profits From Killer’s Daughter’s Memoir

By Mark Hansen

Feb 10, 2012, 02:15 pm CST

Relatives of some of murderous Mob underboss Salvatore “Sammy the Bull’ Gravano’s victims are seeking a share of the profits from his daughter’s upcoming memoir, Mob Daughter.

The victims’ kin are enlisting the Arizona attorney general’s help in going after Karen Gravano’s earnings from the sale of the book under the state’s so-called Son of Sam law, which prevents criminals from profiting from their crimes, the New York Daily News reports.

The relatives include Laura Garofalo, whose father, Edward, was killed by Gravano in 1990; and Roseanne Massa, whose brother Michael DeBatt, was murdered on orders from Gravano in 1997.

“It’s harrowing to hear Karen Gravano boast week after week on her reality show Mob Wives that violence is ‘in my bloodline,’” Garofalo wrote in a letter to the Arizona AG. “She continues to utilize her and her father’s criminal enterprises to lure viewers and generate revenue for herself and VH1.”

“My brother was killed by Sammy, then he was killed again when (Sammy) wrote his book and now he’s being killed a third time in (Karen Gravano’s) book,” Massa reportedly told the newspaper.

Gravano served only five years in prison for 19 mob murders in exchange for his testimony against the late Gambino crime boss John Gotti. He is now serving a 20-year sentence for running an Ecstasy drug ring in Arizona.

The Arizona attorney general previously helped relatives of Sammy Gravano’s victims recover $420,000 from the sales of his memoir, Underboss.

Joe Bruno on the Mob – Karen Gravano Goes Toe-to-Toe With George Stephanopolous in ABC Interview

Posted in Book Reviews, Cosa Nostra, FBI, FBI, Gangs, gangsters, mafia, Mobsters, murder, New York City, New York City murder, organized crime, police, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 24, 2012 by Joe Bruno's Blogs


I guess people would do almost anything to sell a book, but it was a little strange watching “Mob Wives” star Karen Gravano try to defend herself and her former lifestyle while being grilled by ABC news commentator George Stephanopolous in a recent TV interview.

Mobsters, Gangs, Crooks and Other Creeps-Volume 1 - New York City

Mobsters, Gangs, Crooks and Other Creeps-Volume 1 – New York City

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                In this interview, which took place on 2/14/2012, Stephanopolous seemed a little peeved at his perception that Karen Gravano seemed more upset about the fact that her father became a rat, than she did at the fact that her father admitted being involved in 19 murders, including the murder of her uncle, her mother’s brother Nicholas Scibetta.

                Karen Gravano tap-danced around the notion,  saying “I was disgusted at the entire life my father was involved in. The life all around him was bad. My father was going against everything he believed in and everything he told me to believe in (when he became an FBI Informant).”

                Amazingly, after Sammy  Gravano admitted in court he was involved in 19 murders, he got a measly five years in prison. After his released, he took his wife, daughter and son to Arizona, and got them involved in a major ecstasy drug operation . All were arrested. Sammy Gravano  got 19 years, his son got nine years, but his wife and Karen got suspended sentences. Karen said she is living with her 11-year old daughter in Arizona, but is looking to move permanently back to New York and continue her career as a businesswoman. In addition to staring on “Mob Wives,” she said she presently owns a spa and a skin care line.

                Good luck with that.

                However, the main  purpose for Karen Gravano appearing for the interview was to plug her new book “Mob Daughter – The Mafia, Sammy the Bull and Me,” which is ranked #1 on in the category “Organized Crime,” and #443 all the books on Amazon Kindle. Stephanopolous said that the families of her father’s murder victim were claiming her making money on the book was “blood money.”

                Karen Gravano denied this, saying, “This is my story. I didn’t commit the crimes. This is a lifestyle all these men chose. As for the family of the victims, we are all victims. My uncle was killed too.  I’m profiting off my life, not the deaths of the people whose murder my father was involved in. It’s my life and I want to shed light on a lifestyle that is so glamorized. If you read my book you’ll see that I’m not glamorizing anything.”

                It’s an indication of the dumbing-down of America that Karen Gravano’s book is such a big hit. People love to see a train wreck, or read about people whose lives are a proverbial train wreck. And the show “Mob Wives,” a conglomeration of lifestyle train wrecks,  is a wonderful advertisement for her book.

                As for me, I’m going to pass on reading the book. I made the mistake of buying her father’s autobiography more than a decade ago, and the book turned out to be a pack of lies, half-truths, and plain crap.

                At the present, I’m reading Bill O’Reilly’s “Killing Lincoln,” which is the story of a true American hero. Why waste your time reading about the Gravano family (hardly the Nelson Family of “Ozzie and Harriet”), when you can read about someone who made a difference in making America the great country it is?

                Having said that, I know Karen Gravano’s book might be a best-seller for the foreseeable future.

                Like I said before, people just love train wrecks.               


PS – In the interest of full disclosure,  I do have an personal motive for panning Karen Gravano’s book. While her book is ranked #1 under “Organized Crime” on Amazon Kindle, my book “Mobsters, Gangs, Crooks, and other Creeps – Volume 1- New York City,” is not doing as well as hers. After rising as high as #8 under “Organized Crime,” It’s presently at  #13, out of the 100 ranked. Not shabby, but not Karen Gravano-book territory. I guess I’d need my own TV show to compete with her, but unfortunately, I have a face for radio.

 For the Kindle version, Karen Gravano’s books costs $11.95 (hardcover-$15.95); mine costs only 99 cents.

                And don’t be a wiseguy and say, “You get what you pay for.”


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